Praying is Good for your Health

Israel National News ran a similar story to the one on JPost that Mrs. Schmidt and Mrs. Katz referenced, but under the far more fitting title, “Study: Religious Girls More Comfortable With Their Bodies.” It should be a shock, but unfortunately is hardly unexpected, to find a JPost editor finding an extremely negative title with which to spin an article describing superior health in the Orthodox community.

Not so, however, when it comes to prayer, with another JPost article called “Attendance at religious services may increase life expectancy.”

Weekly attendance at religious services can add up to three years to your life, a new US medical study has found.

Dr. Daniel Hall, of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the author of the study published in the March-April issue of the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, compared the impact of regular exercise, statin therapy and religious attendance on life expectancy, and found that each accounted for an additional two to five years of life.

Hall found that regular physical exercise provides the greatest boost to longevity, adding 3.0 to 5.1 years. Use of statin medications accounted for 2.1 to 3.7 additional years, while regular religious attendance added 1.8 to 3.1 years.

The cynic within me points out that non-Orthodox Jews also pray, so there was no compelling reason to spin it negatively. Or perhaps it was just a different headline editor. Either way, both articles say that being religious is good for you. However, as Dr. Hall put it, “unlike other health behaviors, such as exercise, there are practical and ethical problems with recommending ‘therapeutic’ changes in religious behavior.”

Put differently, prayer probably doesn’t work if the only reason you go is in order to increase your life span. Whether or not it works if the only reason you go is for Kiddush — well, that will require further study.

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5 comments to Praying is Good for your Health

  • Michael Kopinsky

    Going for kiddush will most certainly not increase your lifespan.

    What do they have at a kiddush?

    Carbs, alcohol, and cholent. Hardly healthy foods!

  • Ori Pomerantz

    Note that it doesn’t address specific religions. Praying for Avodah Zara might be every bit as effective when it comes to health.

  • mb

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060330/ap_on_he_me/prayer_study

    Seems that it doesn’t work at all.Largest study ever.

  • Yaakov Menken

    MB, That study shows only that being prayed for by a random stranger shows no statistical improvement. I wouldn’t place bets against a bracha from a Gadol (great scholar) so quickly.

    But in any case, the topic of the article I wrote about is the effect of prayer on your own lifespan, which, statistically speaking, tacks on more than a year.

  • mb

    R.Menken,
    I agree with your points regarding personal prayer and longevity etc. But as a community we are often asked to pray for people we don’t know.